Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack The Stripper

A Watery Grave

On April 8, 1964, the naked body of 26-year-old Irene Lockwood was found in the Thames, at a spot almost equidistant between the final resting places of Elizabeth Figg and Hannah Tailford. Two naked bodies by the river in a matter of months might be considered an unfortunate coincidence. Three dead girls, added to another near the same spot a few years earlier, could only lead to one conclusion. A killer was on the loose.

Irene Lockwood
Irene Lockwood

The body had been in the water less than 48 hours, but she had evidently been stripped and placed there post-mortem. Once again she had been strangled with some kind of ligature, probably fashioned from her own clothes.

Familiar facts about the dead woman soon emerged. Lockwood was a street girl of only five feet in height (the other three were all 5'2" or under), and like the others, she had suffered from an STD. Like Hannah Tailford and Gwynneth Rees, she was pregnant. She too had been forced to seek illlicit medical assistance for a abortion, and had recently taken pills which she thought were working because they "made her tummy move."

She had been last seen outside a pub in nearby Chiswick on 7th April.

On the face of it, there might have been any number of reasons why someone would want to take this young woman's life. Her friend Vicki Pender had been found battered to death in her North London flat a year previously after having tried to blackmail clients over photographs she took of them, and there's no doubt Lockwood wasn't averse to similar scams. In his recent book on the case, Jack Of Jumps, David Seabrook tells how a favorite trick of Lockwood's was to take clients to a flat where she would insist they take their trousers off outside the room before having sex, at which point two male friends would emerge from a hiding place and go through the unfortunate punter's pockets.

Book cover: Jack of Jumps
Book cover: Jack of Jumps

So she was no angel. But who was, in the world of thieves, pimps and hustlers these women inhabited? Given such an environment, police never knew whether to believe anything they were told by associates of the dead girls many of them had a lot to hide themselves about their nighttime activities.

That said, even the natural secrecy of vice girls was being eroded by the climate of fear that was spreading across London.

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